[Brussels, 3 April 2017] Around the International Women’s Day, the European United Left/Nordic Green Left European Parliamentary Group organized a Feminist Forum entitled “Struggling for women’s rights to build the future”. During 4 days, decision-makers, women’s Organisations, activists and civil society groups came together to discuss women’s human rights. The EWL was invited to take part to two panel discussions highlighting the situation of the most vulnerable women and girls: those who are refugees, and those trapped into the system of prostitution. You can find the whole programme and the videos of all sessions here.
A small delegation of 5 young women, part of EWL coalition Youth4Abolition, was invited by MEP Malin Björk to join the forum. You can read here the blog post written by Abbie Osmond about her experience in Brussels. Amongst them, Hanuka Lohrengel, a young artist from Germany, and part of the international artistic project Lilies of the Streets, created drawings about her days in Brussels; you can see one below, and the banner of this article is from another one.
Protecting women asylum-seekers and refugees
On Tuesday 7 March afternoon, the EWL presented its #womensvoices project in this panel, chaired by MEP Stefan Eck. “Europe is able to cope with the reality, but is not willing to”, he said. The session started with the screening of the documentary ‘Not who we are’, by Carol Mansour, about refugee women in Lebanon. The life of refugees is made of uncertainty and fear; what does the life of refugee women and girls look like then?
Mina Jaf, from Women Refugee Route, and a member of the European Network of Migrant Women, shared her story and her work in the refugee camps. “Together, we can do better”.
- Feminist Forum session on the Nordic Model
Abolishing prostitution using the Nordic Model
MEP Malin Björk organized a press conference on the Nordic Model in the European Parliament on Wednesday 8 March morning.
“Sex buyers are the most important link because they are the ones that have the money, by reducing the buyers of sex you already starve the traffickers,” Simon Häggström, a Swedish police officer and Nordic Model supporter, said. “We cannot talk about equality between men and women until we shut down these brothels and criminalise the buying of sex. The European Union has a long way to go because we have to speak the same language on this issue.”
Marie Merklinger, member of SPACE, Abolition 2014 and Stop Sexkauf, Germany, shared her own personal story in prostitution. “When I wanted to exit, the frontline organisations convinced me to stay and to develop a better marketing strategy to sell myself”. Each week, a woman is killed in prostitution in Germany. Exit programmes are not implemented, despite being key for women who want to exit the system. The French new law on prostitution, adopted in April 2016, provides for such services, Raphaëlle Rémy-Leleu from Osez le Feminisme explained. Find here a flyer presenting the French law, by CAP International.
All speakers were also invited to share their experience and expertise during the panel discussion on the Nordic Model, on Wednesday afternoon. “Men abuse women: they pay to have sex while knowing that women don’t want to have sex with them”, said Marie Merklinger. Zoi Sakelliadou, from the EU Anti-Trafficking Office, highlighted that trafficking for sexual exploitation receives less attention from decision-makers, while the vast majority of victims being women and girls. “Who is benefiting from this crime? Who is buying?”
In a crowded room, several MEPs were present at the event, including MEP Joao Pimenta Lopes. Martina Nuti, from isala asbl, presented the situation in Belgium, where pimping is highly tolerated. Pierrette Pape, from EWL, talked about the role of men, the links between pornography and prostitution, and the recent developments in Europe, including the adoption by Ireland of the Nordic Model!
“We young people can’t be for prostitution, because we want a better word”, said Raphaëlle Rémy-Leleu, after presenting the video “A job like any other?”. The Nordic Model is based on two legs: the criminalization of the buyers and the social services for women. Both are complementary, and both help make the law have a normative impact on society. When asked about the working conditions, Simon Häggström answered: “You can’t have a dialogue with organized crime about improving working conditions! Listen to the ones who are hurt, not to the ones who scream the most…”
Read this article of Euroactiv to find out more about Simon Häggström’s work.
- #femforum by Hanuka Lohrengel
Ending violence against women and pornography now
On Wednesday 8 March, the EWL took part to the flashmob organised for One Billion Rising. We danced against all forms of violence against women, with a focus this year on sexual exploitation as OBR2017 theme was “Solidarity against the exploitation of women and girls”. You can see some photos here of this great solidarity musical moment, contributing to the global mobilization to which many EWL members took part on 14 February.
The day ended with the performance ‘Plainte contre X’, a theatre play about pornography, based on the text of Karin Bernfeld. A powerful monologue, where Estelle shares her life as a young woman trapped into the pornography industry, and calls on everyone to reflect on one’s role to maintain an industry exploiting and hurting women.
"Prostitution: a job like any other?" (with EN subtitles):